Evaluation of pilot stage of occupational health (OH) Adviceline services – Part 2: Adviceline services get rave reviews!

The data used to evaluate the performance of the Adviceline services (see Part 1 of this blog (posted on 28 March) for more detail on the service) was collected in a number of ways through:

  • a telephone survey of employers who had used the service;
  • 50 in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with employers who used the Adviceline services;
  • regular contact between the evaluation team and Adviceline services’ staff.

Most employers who took part in interviews were very satisfied with the way in which their calls were handled. Getting through to advisers worked smoothly and call-backs were promptly received. The level of professionalism and approach of the advisers was also viewed positively.

Some headline figures:

  • 92% of users found the service useful (66% of these found the service very useful).
  • 93% of users would recommend the service.


Elements of the service that users liked most were that it offers:

  • someone to talk to;
  • free support;
  • help from advisers who understand callers’ issues;
  • impartial/neutral advice;
  • tailored advice;
  • help finding the right information (signposting);
  • help finding specialists (signposting).

Employers were attracted to the service for a number of reasons, notably that:

  • it was free;
  • it appeared to be a ‘one-stop shop’;
  • it offered immediate, impartial and trusted advice and access to support.


The service was perceived by many to be:

  • an important and legitimate source of confirmation about actions they had already taken or were considering taking in response to an employee health problem (i.e. reassurance that they were taking the right approach);
  • a good source of information about where to go for further support (i.e. signposting).


The main reasons for calling the Adviceline services:

  • Information about gaining access to occupational health (OH) services (e.g. for an OH assessment).
  • Guidance about an individual’s sickness absence.
  • Advice about an employee’s physical health.
  • Advice on an employee’s mental health condition.
  • Guidance on sickness absence relating to more than one employee.

The most common action taken by service users after using the service:

  • Consulting a third party (including face-to-face or local OH services) for further support or advice.
  • Contacting the employee who was off sick.
  • Changing the employee’s role or working conditions.
  • Putting together a return to work plan.
  • Conducting a risk assessment.

Service users by sector:

Calls were received from most industries although the highest number of calls in England came from ‘health and social care’ (i.e. nursing homes and other care organisations, dentists, GP practices and some charitable organisations) perhaps because of a relatively high level of sickness absence in this sector*.

Industry (England) % of calls
Health and social care 20%
Manufacturing 11%
Construction 9%
Information 9%
Arts, entertainment and other services 7%


Service users by size of organisation:

The majority of service users were from SMEs with 10-49 employees. Organisations with fewer than ten employees (micro employers) were under-represented in the sample of users compared to their number in the Great Britain population of SMEs, which may reflect the lower incidence of sickness absence in small as opposed to medium-sized firms, and the difficulties in reaching this group.

No. of employees % of calls
0-9 25%
10-49 47%
50-249 28%


It is clear that the Adviceline services are valued by organisations so we are very glad to have been given the go-ahead to continue with the services for the foreseeable future. Following the pilot stage and the feedback we received from service users we have extended the service we offer to include greater provision of information online for those who prefer the opportunity to find information on staff health issues without necessarily having to speak to an adviser in the first instance. Advice can now be sought in three ways:

  • Telephone advice on Freephone 0800 0 77 88 44.
  • Self-service information through access to an extensive, intelligent, on-line knowledge base on our website.
  • On-line communication with a contact centre by submitting a question to the support team, or ‘chatting’ directly with a member of the team (a form of instant messaging).

To find out more about the service we offer, visit our website and online knowledge base (constantly updated with guides on employee health topics). Or, if you’re after immediate answers to staff health queries, call us on 0800 0 77 88 44 to speak to an OH professional.

*Black, C. and Frost, D. (2011) An independent review of sickness absence.

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